Thursday, October 05, 2006

Trust Everyone

During the last two days, the caveat about trusting strangers has been proved meaningless.

Wednesday: A day of riding containing an ascent to nearly 6,000 feet, a flat tire and headwinds climaxes on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, where a cashier in Bylas, Arizona, advises me not to even think about pitching a tent on the side of the road, “not in this town.” Lightning and rain begin, and the wind picks up, blowing sight-obstructing sand into my eyes, one of which has misplaced its contact. I resolve to camp on a roadside despite the cashier’s warnings. Roger Evans sees me churning against the wind and pulls over in a green pickup truck, offering me a lift, which I take 25 miles to Safford, where he and his wife Pam feed me and put me up for the night. They're perhaps the most genuine people I’ve met on this trip.

I ride east out of Safford, Arizona, en route to Silver City, New Mexico, which, though I don’t know it at the time, is 111 miles away. With a headwind this vicious, I’d never make it. Apart from pedaling, I busy myself with avoiding a booming population of large, leaping insects (grasshoppers?) that loiter on the highway’s shoulders. (I don’t know the species, but if you think you know insects, here are some behavioral clues that might help you determine: 1. Jumping as high as two or three feet to avoid imminent death by wheel, often landing on their backs. 2. Mating while walking, often into oncoming traffic. 3. Eating their dead.) As I weave in and out of the ubiquitous creatures, sometimes inadvertently crushing those with slow reaction times, tiny, unnoticeable thorns flat my wheel in two places. I find one hole and repair it. I ride two more miles, during which the wheel slowly deflates again. I search for the other hole, becoming increasingly dismayed as I fail to find it.

A small car with two bikes on the back pulls over in front of me, and a twentysomething guy hops out of the passenger side to offer assistance. He finds the hole, I patch it. He’s going to El Paso, an eventual stop on my itinerary. “Are you set on riding that bike all day?” he asks, “or do you want a ride to your next destination?” I say, “Right now I’m pretty set on not riding that bike.” We put the bike on the rack. He (David) and his wife, Athena, drive me to Lordsburg, where I am now, 45 miles southwest of Silver City, typing at a KOA (Kampground of America, for the uninformed). They’re perhaps the most genuine people I’ve met on this trip.

All strangers, all strangely comfortable. I’m either incredibly trusting and lucky or have, in nearly two weeks on the road, begun to develop a fairly accurate quick-judgment character gauge. I’ll assume the latter until I hitch a ride with a serial killer and am discovered weeks later being eaten by grasshoppers on the side of a little-trafficked road.